#SOL16: Back to School

Joyful Learning!


Depending on your geographic location,

  • you could have been in school already for over two weeks – Allison in Arizona,
  • have completed one week with students – Justin in Kentucky and Kathryn in Minnesota,
  • have students returning today – Julieanne in California or
  • even have students waiting for floodwaters to recede like Margaret in Louisiana.

Whereever you live, the calendar is marching on, and school will soon begin.

In 2015 this back to school blog post focused on relationships and learning priorities while the 2014 post here included blogs and quotes and Lucy Calkins’ challenge to “outgrow ourselves as readers”.  And more recently, this #DigiLit Sunday post was also about planning for the new school year.

Are you prepared?  And what does that mean for you?  

Is your room ready?

Have you added some alternative seating?  Additional partner seating?  How do you allow the students to have some say and choice in the room arrangement?  What does your library look like?  Are students able to easily access books in the classroom library?

Are your first instructional days planned?

How will you greet your students?  What is your first Read Aloud going to be?  Your first mini lesson for reading workshop?  Writing workshop?  Your own first demonstration writing piece?  And what about that first poem?

“The First Day of School

I wonder if my drawing will be as good as theirs
I wonder if they’ll like me, or just be full of stares
I wonder if my teacher will look like mom or gram
And I wonder if my puppy will wonder where I am.

~Aileen Fisher”

Have you set your goals for the year?

My wish is that every child will have joyful learning every day of school that will allow him or her to grow beyond belief in reading, writing, speaking, listening, thinking, math and research (science and social studies). Each classroom will have a skilled, enthusiastic and passionate teacher who focuses on meeting the needs of the whole child!


Not sure if you are ready?  Need some more ideas?  Sarah Brown Wessling writes about her pledge to students here or check out this NEA Back to School Guide!

Are you REALLY ready?

What are your planning priorities right now?

And what about personal priorities for your very own children?  Are they starting a new school year as well?  As a student? As a teacher? As a parent?

What rituals do you share with them?

My son and I had a first day “back to school tradition” of dinner out.  Dinner out at a fancy schmantzy restaurant where we could talk about the first day of school and everything that happened away from the rush of meal prep or the stack of ever-present work.  A joyful celebration of new beginnings!

slice of life 2016

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 


25 responses

  1. I love that your slice so clearly indicates what a community we are here at TWT. You know so much about where people are and what they are doing. First day of meetings yesterday for me. Your slice had me thinking about Pernille Ripp’s 19 Days blog post- really powerful.

    1. Thanks, Lisa!
      It seems like many of us have opening day “rituals” – just need to consider whether we are focusing on “the right lens” . . . the students!

      Yay! Back to school for you!

  2. Wonderful suggestions and questions to get everyone thinking! And I agree with Lisa – you have a real sense of this community.

    1. Thanks, Rose!
      I wa thinking of you and Lynne when I said to myself . . . “poetry”. I fervently hope that everyone has a community as supportive at #TWT. What a family to lean on! ❤

  3. I’m totally not ready !

    1. Hopefully you still have more time!!!

  4. Fran, this is just want I needed to read. You are a master at asking the questions that motivate and lead to action! I start back officially next Thursday and kids come the day after Labor Day. But after last week at TC and this week to have time to reflect, I am feeling ready to go. I will checking back to this post to guide me in the right direction. Thanks for all the additional links, too! Have a GREAT school year in Iowa! Maybe I’ll see you in October at TC.

    1. Sally,
      With Rome in August I still have to think about TC in October. It will of course be on my list!

  5. I still have about 3 weeks before students arrive, and I have plenty of things to fill the time before I even look at my school To Do list. I have started keeping a Google Doc open on my computer all day so I can jot down my “first week” ideas. After 15 first days one would think I’d be ready; alas…

    1. Lisa,
      Always so much to think about! I like the idea of an open Google Doc! ❤

  6. No, I am not ready, but I think by the time students come after Labor Day I will be ready! I stopped by today to check my room….furniture is there, but lots of moving needs to happen. I think I need to recruit some muscle to help me out! Plans are forming–some already printed out; now I just need to get moving!

    1. Jaana,
      Sounds like your planning time will be useful! Muscle will be important!

  7. My new room is being painted and all my books are in boxes, but, thanks to Kelly Boland Hohne, I have a good plan for the work I’ll be doing with teachers as we dive into the learning progressions.

    1. I can’t wait to see how you use Kelly’s work. I think of the progressions as fun! Silly me!!!

  8. This ” skilled, enthusiastic and passionate teacher who focuses on meeting the needs of the whole child!” is the crux of it! Something to keep us focused amid the crazy beginnings, middles and ends of a school year. It’s a process that we build on every day with every child. Thank you for keeping the joy and the process front and center.

    1. Ah, yes, you found yourself in TWO places in my post today!!! It was so fun to write because of the many, many joyful teachers that I know!!!<3

  9. Looks like we will go back to school tomorrow. I am anxious to see how my students fared. This has been a trial but also teaches us all about resilience and the power of nature.

    1. There are some things we cannot control…and floodwaters would be one!

  10. Love your tradition! My current room status is of the “not even close” variety. Books are EVERYWHERE and there are multiple tubs to go through. Next week will be busy as I really buckle down and get tackling the big stuff. I spent a lot of time working at home this summer instead of at school. It was a needed break and I had time to reflect, read, and plan.

  11. Thank you Fran!! My students start on August 22! 😊 Kitty Donohoe

    1. Yay, next Monday! Have fun!

  12. I’ve had several PD sessions already.and Working on sorting, organizing and planning as I go. Seems slower but more sustainable. Time will tell.

  13. My room is ready, but the “to do” list is long! I think it will be easier just to print your wise words and staple it on…thank you, Fran!

    1. Kathy, There is so MUCH behind the scenes work to getting ready for the school year. The physical room space is easily seen as it progresses, the mental planning – not so much. And unfortunately not so highly valued in many circles. But the payoff for student learning is tremendous so it’s time well spent!

      You’re welcome!

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